Hemithyroidectomy: A Medical Definition of a Hemithyroidectomy

Hemithyroidectomy is a surgical procedure that removes half of the thyroid gland. During this procedure, one of the lobes and part of the isthmus is removed. An endocrine gland, the thyroid gland produces two major hormones that are responsible for various bodily functions, calcitonin, triiodothyronine (T3), and thyroxine (T4). Thyroid hormones have an impact on every organ and every cell of the human body, controlling the speed at which your body cells work. Thyroid hormones regulate the body’s metabolism, body weight, heart rate, muscles, bone loss, menstrual cycles, breathing, blood lipid levels, body temperature, the nervous system, and more.

In some instances, a thyroidectomy has to be performed, removing all or part of the thyroid gland. The reasons for performing a hemithyroidectomy includes:

  • Hyperthyroidism– When the thyroid gland is hyperfunctioning or producing too much of the thyroid hormone.
  • Cancer– If thyroid cancer is suspected, one of the lobes are removed so it can be analyzed for a determination.
  • Compression– When a nodule in the thyroid becomes enlarged it can compress surrounding structures in the neck. Including the esophagus or trachea.
  • Cosmetic Reasons– For some people, the thyroid gland can create an unsightly lump in the front of the neck.

When a hemithyroidectomy is performed, general anesthesia is used. Dissection is made on one of the skin creases in the neck to reach the thyroid gland. A surgical drain is inserted and is required for, at least, the first night after surgery. Usually, on the second day after the operation, the draining has stopped and the surgical drain is able to be removed. Once the surgical drain has been removed, it is then possible to return home to continue your post-op care.

After a hemithyroidectomy, the length of time that is required to recover can vary, but often it is one to two weeks. Fortunately, most people recover fairly quickly after a hemithyroidectomy.